With its stunning debut in the Delhi Assembly election and subsequent formation of government, the Aam Aadmi Party captured the imagination of the country and broke several myths about politics and the common man’s participation in what many still consider a “dirty domain.” On the basis of its different plank against corruption, what used to be just a motley crowd of people always ready to go on a fast became a political outfit to reckon with in no time.

But that was in January. The situation in October is not as encouraging. Leave alone opponents, even the party’s initial supporters question the decisions it made and worse, most of them remain sceptical about its survival beyond the peripheries of Delhi.

As the party decided not to contest the Assembly elections in Haryana and Maharashtra, where most of its leaders from outside Delhi belong to, there is little scope to guess its political strength in its current shape.

At this juncture when many political observers have written off the party after its disastrous performance in the general elections in which it fielded the largest number of candidates, questions are being raised about the prospects and future of politics based on the anti-corruption plank as that of the AAP.

The AAP strategists insist that the party is “here to stay,” displaying a conviction unique to those who raised slogans for Byavastha Parivartan (change the system) when they formed the party on November 26, 2012.

Against the predictions of doomsayers, Anand Kumar, senior AAP leader and a political activist who has been active since the days of Emergency, says: “Our own political understanding about the anti-corruption plank of politics has evolved since the time the party resigned from the government.”

A feeling widely shared across the board in the AAP is that the party did a great disservice to its anti-corruption agenda by making the historic blunder of resigning from the Delhi government over an anti-corruption law.

Most of the party supporters believe that had Mr. Kejriwal stayed in the government delivering governance without day-to-day corruption, the political fortunes of the party would have seen an upswing. Professor Kumar argues that it would be unfair to say the AAP’s message was rejected across the country; it was appreciated in many parts such as Punjab where the party’s campaign against drugs managed to connect with the public.

“What we need is the suitable language which highlights the problems of the region. Just talking against corruption or crony capitalism won’t be enough but we got to talk about the impact of crony capitalism on day-to-day governance of that particular part of the country explaining in detail our vision of governance,” he says.

In Delhi, he says, despite the party’s failure to win even a single seat, its vote share went up by over four per cent.

Sociologist Shiv Visvanathan is of the view that the AAP has all the potential to bounce back. He compares the party to a “batsman who is out of form,” and says, “All they need is fresh ideas to connect with people.”

“Modi’s idea of cleanliness has nothing to do with anti-corruption. All he talks about is cleaning the Ganga. Now this provides the AAP with an opportunity but they got to do some fresh thinking and do some good investigation to find holes in Modi’s rhetoric,” he adds.

Jagdip Chhokar of the Association for Democratic Reforms, however, said the “anti-corruption plank” alone is not sufficient for any political party and a comprehensive vision of governance is needed for electoral politics.

When it comes to the AAP’s contribution to the anti-corruption agenda in the country, its leaders emphasise that the party even in its brief stay till now on the political landscape of the country has improved the discourse by creating the pressure to keep the criminals and the corrupt out of electoral politics and making the anti-corruption plank a mainstream agenda for the political class.

Professor Kumar mentions that through its choice of candidates in the Delhi Assembly, the AAP proved that a party could win election and form the government without fielding even a single candidate with a criminal background and facing allegations of corruption.

“What do you regard these if not our achievement that even before our stunning performance [in Delhi], the BJP was forced to replace Vijay Goel last minute with a cleaner face like Harsh Vardhan [as its chief ministerial candidate] and the Congress was hesitant in naming Sheila Dikshit as its chief ministerial candidate then because of allegation of corruption against her in the CWG scam,” Professor Kumar says.

“Who deserves the credit for the fact that unlike past instances, even the single largest party in the Delhi Assembly is hesitant to form the government and is very cautious not to be seen doing any kind of horse trading?” he asks.

The institutions of Lokpal, as perceived by the Central government, and Lokayukta at the State level are weak and need to be replaced through strong anti-corruption legislation, something which the AAP has been pushing for, says another AAP stalwart, Prashant Bhushan. In fact, its plank of a strong anti-graft law in Delhi led to the party’s sudden exit in Delhi.

The former Lokayukta of Delhi, Justice (Retd.) Manmohan Sarin, however, sounded a discordant note, and said even the present institutions such as the Lokayukta was sufficient to deal with corruption.

“All we need is a Lokayukta who can come up with fresh ideas and look at things innovatively. Now people have woken up. And the corrupt can no longer survive for long,” he says.

He substantiated his argument by referring to the fact that all politicians, most of them from the Sheila Dikshit government in Delhi, including herself, he indicted for corruption, lost in the Delhi polls.